Cars queue up to use the fuel pumps at BP Plc petrol station near Guildford
Cars queue up to use the fuel pumps at BP Plc petrol station near Guildford, UK, on Monday, September 27, 2021. Image Credit: Bloomberg

These are trying days in the United Kingdom at present as a perfect storm of circumstance is culminating in a series of challenges for consumers and businesses alike.

Because of uncertainties pinned on a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers, many companies are facing difficulty in getting raw materials to their factories or manufacturing plants, having equal difficulty moving those finished goods to the marketplace, and these supply chain issues mean less choice on the shelves for many customers.

The supply chain issues have also resulted in fewer supplies of petrol and road fuels being delivered to filling stations, with the shortages affecting England and Wales in particular — leading to panic buying where motorists are literally following fuel tankers so as to fill their vehicles. The reality is that fuel supplies are largely as normal but the perception is that there is a crisis — one greatly magnified on social media.

Dealing with the crisis 

The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is attempting to deal with the crisis by asking motorists to act responsibly and stop topping up their tanks at every opportunity, and they are also preparing some 75 soldiers this week to help deliver fuel from tankers. More will be trained up next week.

It might be easy to blame Brexit for the woes that Britain finds itself in now. That would be too simplistic. For too long, HGV drivers have been poorly paid, their upper age limit has increased and there are fewer workers now willing to be trained up for a life on the road, sleeping in cabs and being away from families and loved ones for days on end.

The government is adjusting its visa scheme to allow drivers from European Union nations to work in the UK from October 1 through to Christmas. That is a stop-gap measure.

The pandemic has meant that many people have looked at their lives and their previous ways of working. The pandemic and the loses it brought means that people have left careers and made life choices instead.

Across Europe, there are supply chain issues, caused largely from the economic hibernation brought by the pandemic. Because Europe’s economies are so integrated, a hiccup in one area brings pains in another, and that is a cycle that is repeated and compounded.

As an island nation — and yes, Brexit has not helped — there is now more red tape and procedures for goods crossing international borders, exacerbating those supply chain issues.

The message though for Britons has a similar refrain: Keep calm and carry on.